2023: The Year of Echoes
Every year since the ten-year anniversary of Artemis Sere, I've assigned a theme to each year. If you're interested in art and content shared during the various years, perform a search in Google, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter for more info. You can also check out the tag on my website dedicated to that theme.
THE SERE THEMES
It began in 2017 with the tenth anniversary of the Artemis Sere concept, brand and art via the #yearoftheSere tag.
It continued in 2018 with an exploration into the Sere philosophy and life practice with #yearoftheSeretic.
In 2019, I adventured into art-first existence and living the Artrovert concept via #yearoftheArtrovert.
In 2020, I charted a course to personal civility, connection, and community with the #yearofCivility. (Unfortunately, it was greatly hampered by COVID.)
2021 was my #yearofSerenity and highlighted my Serenity Gallery and "Echoprism Volume 1".
2022 was my #yearofSerein and continued to highlight my Serenity Gallery and the publication of "Echoprism Volume 2".
2023 IN THE REARVIEW
2023 has been my #yearofEchoes, a year of challenges and themes that reflect my history and gave birth to the synchronicity of my sixth book "Obscurious X".
My "year of Echoes" began as a celebration of the completion of the "Echoprism" gallery books, but quickly turned into the antithesis of their vibrant theme: darkness on the periphery, and a dread sense of repetition of old themes coming back to haunt the present. I was still adapting to a new life as a diabetic, and layoffs were happening at work all around me.
The echoes of past pain were coming back into focus during my 50th year on the planet.
The specter of layoffs started early in 2023, and turbulence at work made creation an uncomfortable outlet. Add 3 years of focus on developing the Serenity Gallery and the "Echoprism" gallery books, and I found myself making fewer trips to my easel. I created minimal new visual art pieces in 2023.
It is possible that I was experiencing a phase of creative exhaustion: after publishing over 700 pages worth of gallery work with "Echoprism", and dedicating over a thousand hours of my time to design, publish, and market the books, I found myself lacking momentum.
Then the layoff happened. It was my first time ever being laid off from a job. Despite my success, work ethic, and experience, I was let go. Previously, when I exited 3M to start my #metalmorphosis adventure, I did it under my terms and circumstances, even if it too was a failed effort.
The recurrence of trying and failing were consistent throughout my last year, culminating in the publication of one of my best books and a true return to the echoes that formed Artemis Sere. Unfortunately, that has failed to flourish and is tracking far fewer sales than the original.
I began the year with committing to sharing only grayscale profile pics and covers across my social media profiles for the duration of the year. At that time, I didn't know that publishing my darkest book -"Obscurious X" - was on the horizon for me. Serendipity met instability when I was laid off, and opportunity emerged from that crash.
I planned the launch of "Obscurious X" in 2019 as part of a larger publishing plan that spanned a decade of projects. The goal was to publish "Obscurious X" in 2021 to celebrate its ten year release anniversary. I worked on its development a bit in 2020, but decided to make my "Echoprism" volumes the priority due to recent completion of "Project Alexandria".
"Project Alexandria" helped me track and define an inventory for over 600 pieces of my art. During 2019 I decided the creation of a gallery book of my works would help my own understanding of what I've created, but also create a content cache for all future works. Even though it took close hundreds of hours to complete, I was able to reach my goal. It is that inventory work that is the backbone for my "Echoprism" volumes.
But I only have so much time, and 2019 and 2020 involved my life falling apart following the death of my Father. The darkness that followed his death sent me searching for a new identity and stability. The Fog of Death from his passing lasted at least a year while I was also contending with COVID. Life and stability derailed, but found tracks again in 2021. During that period of stability, I used my free time to build and launch "Echoprism Volume 1" and "Echoprism Volume 2".
Fast-forward to 2023: The inconvenience of being laid off introduced a healthy amount of free time to my calendar. In order maintain my sanity while searching for a new job, I threw my focus into projects. I renovated my art space. I repainted and renovated our loft. I got back to blogging more often. I found voice and fire that dimmed while chaos dominated my life throughout 2023.
I dusted off the "Obscurious X" project and made a commitment to completing the book by my 50th birthday. It took a hundred or so hours to revise, reformat, and republish, but out of the maelstrom of unemployment, I walked away with a completed project and another book on the shelf.
And I'm especially proud of my sixth book in how much personal and creative growth I show between the two versions. When I wrote "Obscurious" in 2011, I was constantly in pain, finding my way in a demanding new job, and hurting from struggles to love and find love. It was a sometimes bitter statement and often a bleak reflection of my personality.
It was also rooted in the idea of poetic revenge. Part of my growth as a person involves letting go of the hooks from the past that have continued to infect my present. "Obscurious" was an amazing healing and cathartic exercise for me. It was the SERE acronym in first action, driving me to step out of my comfort zone, share my story, and commit to evolving my craft.
"The universe will keep giving you lessons until you learn them.”
What would a reflection of this kind be without synthesis of wisdom? As my present life continues to be turbulent and I struggle with unemployment - even worse, fighting off impostor syndrome that makes me wonder what it is I'm doing here - I need to circle back to the things that I learned during this #yearofEchoes.
1. "Taking a fresh look at the pains of the past helps the present."
From the outside, it probably seems like I didn't do much work to evolve "Obscurious" to "ObscuriousX". Like bands that remix or remaster their works, it may not seem like much effort from the outside looking in. But people fail to see "how deep" someone has to go to "remaster" a previous work. I estimate that 50% of "Obscurious X" is new. The removal of revenge as a theme echoes spiritual progress. Understanding how pixels work reflects design progress. And changing the words of a poem written 20 or 30 years ago takes courage. At 50 years old, poems written while I was in college cascade differently now. In some cases, I don't have patience for the words of the past; in others, I can see the nuggets of wisdom that need to pull into the present. "Obscurious" helped me remember where I've been and how far I've come since those dark days.
2. "Never stop creating."
I have to remind myself on a regular basis that I'm representing Artemis Sere for myself. Not for a specific audience. Not for an annual salary. But for me. Through art, I find catharsis. It has never been financially lucrative for me. For the 8-10 hours I put into a piece of acrylic art, few ever see my pieces live; for the hundreds of thousands of hours I put into a book, I only see a handful of sales; for the endless hours I put into building a website and promoting, I never meet the hopes and goals that I have as a brand. If I made my art as data-driven as my profession, I would've given up a long time ago. But I can't give up. For better or worse, I'm married to my Art.
3. "I am a victory."
Right now, I'm in a phase of loss and decline. My choice of putting Art first four years ago is coming back to haunt me in the worst way and at the worst time. Every beam of my life right now feels stressed and ready for collapse. But I know I will survive whatever comes my way. I've survived worse and lived to tell the tales. In fact, the pain of my past developed into a creative ghost who has produced six books, over six hundred pieces of art, hundreds of blogs, numerous gallery shows, an authentic voice and brand, and an enviable social media following. I live in a world surrounded by my creations and people (and animals) that love me. And I know my best is yet to come.
Obscurious X: Decade of Darkness
Order your copy from Blurb now!
I am an independent artist who does not sell his product on Amazon. My margin for each book is less than hourly wage at McDonald's, so I have no illusions of getting rich off of my work.
But sales reinforce that my art matters to my audience, and the more sales that I'm able to generate off of my art, the more resources I have to make more art. It's circular for me. I don't expect to end up a millionaire, but I will exit with a creative legacy, even if it doesn't have a large, popular audience.
My art is honest, imperfect, reflective, challenging, and hopeful. Please consider subscribing to my Artrovert Blog, buying a copy of "Obscurious X", or following me on social media.
2024 will be an exciting and terrifying year for all of us.
The #yearoftheAlien is coming.
Obscurious X: Decade of Darkness
Order your copy from Blurb now!